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Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise
Talking about the menopause: symptoms, support and the role of exercise

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7.2 Progesterone

During the menstrual cycle progesterone provides balance to oestrogen in the body, for example by preventing overgrowth of the lining of the uterus that is encouraged by oestrogen so that if an egg is fertilised, it has a nice comfortable bed to lie in! In perimenopause, progesterone levels start to fall off before oestrogen levels, and it is this that causes the ‘hormone hell’ that Mansberg (2020, p. 48) calls this time. The balance between oestrogen and progesterone is disturbed, so that oestrogen becomes relatively excessive as progesterone levels wane. This change in hormone balance produces particularly difficult symptoms, including anxiety, difficulty sleeping and breast tenderness.

Progesterone is a powerful component in our metabolic functioning, enabling us to burn fat to produce energy, and along with thyroid hormones, regulates metabolism. It also increases our pain threshold, helps us sleep and, being the ‘chill-out hormone’ (Mansberg, 2020, p. 117), enhances feelings of calm. Small wonder, then, that when so much less progesterone is produced in menopause, people find they are gaining weight, lose their body confidence and sex drive, can’t get a good night’s sleep, and can feel irritable, anxious and find it difficult to relax.